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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Marjorie Dannenfelser on what's next in the abortion battles

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds. Happy Canada Day to our readers up north — and happy Independence Day weekend. To commemorate the Fourth of July, we'll be off on Monday. Tips, complaints, praise: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … Biden calls for filibuster exception for abortion, Manchin and Sinema say no … One step forward, a major step back on USICA … How close Trump came to joining rioters from The Post's Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. LeonnigWhat we're watching: Brittney Griner on trial in Moscow … Coffee Break(s): July Fourth travel tips … but first …

On K Street

Marjorie Dannenfelser takes Democrats’ threat to scrap the filibuster for abortion rights seriously

Seven questions for … Marjorie Dannenfelser: We spoke with the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a leading anti-abortion group, about her movement’s path forward after the demise of Roe v. Wade. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: Tell me about your lobbying strategy in state capitals. Twenty states have banned most or all abortions already or are expected to do so soon. Which states where abortion remains legal are you most focused on?

Dannenfelser: There's a whole group of battleground states — states like Virginia and North Carolina. In North Carolina, there's a governor who would never sign a 15-week limit. We need a new governor. In Virginia, we need a couple of votes in the legislature in order to pass the governor's 15-week, pain-capable proposal.

Our most immediate focus is in states where they're in the middle of the legal process of allowing their pre-Roe laws to go into effect. Clearly the longer-term but important battle is, OK, take a look at a place like California and New York, where in places outside of the major cities people support consensus-type measures like no abortion after the second trimester or stopping abortion even after the first trimester.

[Our] very first focus on the state level is in Kansas [which is holding a referendum in August on whether to strip provision protecting abortion rights from its state constitution].

The Early: How are you thinking about states that already have six-week bans in place but have not banned abortion entirely?

Dannenfelser: Our priority now is helping states be as ambitious as they can be. My biggest concern is states that have a plug in the system, like a bad governor, or a handful of legislators that are the problem. 

One thing that we can't do is overreach the will of the people. If you do, it will be corrected, and you may not stay in public office any longer. You reach too far, and you save nobody and you serve no women who are in distress and need your help.

The Early: What’s your position on efforts by some anti-abortion groups to prevent women in states where abortion is banned from traveling across state lines to obtain them? 

Dannenfelser: I will never be — because I believe in freedom of movement — for tracking down, finding out where women are going. I think there are important issues to look at in how states and the federal government are reacting to this panic to get women abortions. But that would not be one that I am interested in. 

The Early: “Let’s be 100% clear,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted last Friday. “If Republicans win control of the House, Senate and White House two years from now, they will pass a national abortion ban. And no matter where you live, no matter how pro-choice your state is, women and doctors will be locked up for practicing health care.” Do you think that’s true?

Dannenfelser: I don't know why he thinks that. Even when we had [the House, the Senate and the White House], the Republican Party was not able to pass a law like that. The 20-week bill, the pain-capable bill has been voted on every year since 2014, and there isn't a filibuster-proof majority for that. [Ed.: A 20-week abortion ban failed 51-46 in the Senate in 2018.] So I'm not sure how you get to life at conception from not even being able to pass that.

The Early: You told The Post before the draft opinion leaked that you’d had conversations with Republican lawmakers about a six-week ban and a 15-week ban. What’s your sense of what they would take up if they recapture the House or the Senate or both in November?

Dannenfelser: Well, [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [(R-S.C.) will introduce after Labor Day a 15-week pain-cable bill. He has led the 20-week one for a long time. I don't know that we have what the filibuster will bear in the Senate. The House has a heartbeat bill already introduced and a 15-week limit. And it's [Republicans’] job right now to build support for both of those. I don't know where it will land.

The Early: You’ve said in the past that polls showing most Americans didn’t want Roe overturned — 56 percent oppose the Supreme Court’s decision last week, according to one poll — are misleading because Americans don’t understand Roe. But an overwhelming majority of Americans think abortion should be legal in at least some cases. How do you grapple with that while pushing for full bans on abortion?

Dannenfelser: I don't grapple at all with that. I think we have a big door open that leads to better laws than we've ever had before, going as far as consensus will bear. So will I celebrate a 15-week pain-capable bill signed by [Virginia] Governor [Glenn] Youngkin? Absolutely.

Roe is not relevant anymore. Like it or not, it's not relevant. What's relevant is what the law in your state should be. And most people in most demographics — except the most hardcore left — support a limit after the first trimester. And in fact when you ask people what Roe is, that's generally what they think it is.

The Early: Democrats have been campaigning on eliminating the filibuster and passing legislation to legalize abortion nationwide if they hold the House and win two more Senate seats. Do you think that's possible? Do you see it as a threat?

Dannenfelser: Yeah, I think candidates can always mess up. I don't think anything is predetermined at all.

At the White House

Biden calls for filibuster exception for abortion, Manchin and Sinema say no

President Biden on June 30 said that he would support an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rules to pass legislation to codify abortion protections. (Video: The Washington Post)

The presidential green light: President Biden called for altering Senate filibuster rules to codify into law abortion rights and privacy protections, the most aggressive position he has staked out on reproductive rights and one that could reshape a roiling national debate ahead of the midterm elections,” our colleagues Matt Viser and Ashley Parker report. Biden’s comments came after “many of the world leaders with whom he spent the past week had released statements critical of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

  • "Just hours after his filibuster remarks — with Air Force One still arcing across the Atlantic — it became clear that his call had done nothing to sway Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), two key lawmakers whose support he would need to change the Senate rules.

On the Hill

One step forward, a major step back on USICA

NEWS: Negotiators are inching closer to an agreement on the bipartisan technology and microchip manufacturing bill after they cleared another hurdle in their talks. 

House and Senate negotiators agreed this week to drop trade provisions of the bill authored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) aimed at leveling the trade relationship against China, including suspending the duties on a number of goods such as manufacturing materials. The move was made to attract House support.

The development comes as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened to blow up negotiations between the House and Senate, tweeting Thursday afternoon “there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill.” (USICA stands for the United States Innovation and Competition Act.)

McConnell's tweet landed hours after our colleague Tony Romm reported that Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) were nearing agreement on a measure to reduce prescription drug prices. The two Democratic senators have been quietly negotiating a much-scaled-down Build Back Better economic package that would need the support of just 50 votes because it is being moved through the reconciliation process. 

“Sen. McConnell is so beholden to PhRMA that he’s willing to help China, hurt American manufacturing, and screw over Americans with outrageously high Rx prices,” Justin Goodman, a Schumer spokesman, said in a tweet.

USICA and a slimmed-down reconciliation bill are both Democratic priorities before the midterm elections.

The trade measure received the support of 91 senators last year but was dropped from the competition bill this week because senators could not reach agreement with House Republicans and Democrats, two sources familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private negotiations tell The Early. The House's preferred trade provisions are expected to fall out as well, sources said. 

Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been working to speed up negotiations so they could hold a vote on a compromise bill in July as manufacturing industry pressure weighed on the negotiations.

The microchip bill received the support of 18 Republican senators last year, and the car and technology industries are pressuring lawmakers to act quickly. Intel announced last week that it would put on hold a $20 billion microchip-manufacturing plant in Ohio unless Congress could reach an agreement. 

The campaign

How close Trump came to joining rioters

‘Take me up to the Capitol now’: “Toward the end of 2020, then-President Donald Trump began raising a new idea with aides: that he would personally lead a march to the Capitol on the following Jan. 6,” our colleagues Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig write.

  • “Trump brought it up repeatedly with key advisers in the Oval Office, according to a person who talked with him about it. The president told others he wanted a dramatic, made-for-TV moment that could pressure Republican lawmakers to support his demand to throw out the electoral college results showing that Joe Biden had defeated him,” the person told our colleagues.
  • “Trump has acknowledged his foiled effort to reach the Capitol. ‘Secret Service wouldn’t let me,’ he told The Post in April. ‘I wanted to go. I wanted to go so badly. Secret Service says you can’t go. I would have gone there in a minute.’”
  • “Aides did not know where Trump got the idea, this person said, but it wasn’t from inside the White House.”

What we're watching

Happening right now: “American WNBA star Brittney Griner is scheduled to go on trial on drug charges in a Moscow court after customs officials said they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her baggage at a Moscow airport in February, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” our colleagues Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina report. “Griner could face 10 years in jail if convicted.”

Coffee Break(s)

Welcome to our fun new feature. We actually have some semblance of lives outside of this wonderful newsletter and get a lot of inspiration on how to spend our time from the pages of The Post. So periodically, we'll share with you what peaks our interest, what we add to our bucket lists or ways to make our busy lives easier. 

As we head into the long holiday weekend, we are definitely reading all the tips on how to get through this peak travel weekend safely and relatively on time. We are definitely not looking forward to our drive on I-95 South from D.C.

The Media

Weekend reeeads 🐣 🌴

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